Flying can be very exhausting and can sometimes lead to serious consequences. The demand for air travel is set to double in the next 2 decades according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It is important to be prepared and be aware of any health issues you have. Staying healthy on board will enable you to feel your best as you disembark and prevent adverse events. Here are some tips to help you stay well on your flight.
1. Nutrition and alcohol
- Staying well hydrated is imperative to reduce jetlag, fatigue and for general good health. Cabins are kept at a low humidity so drink plenty of water throughout the flight. Have a small bottle you can keep refilling.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine containing drinks. Resist the quick glass of wine in the lounge before you board your flight.
- Be aware that your sense of taste is affected by the cabin pressure. Dry conditions and even the loud noises contribute to these subtle changes causing our perception of saltiness and sweetness to be reduced.
- Avoid gas producing food and drinks before travel such as carbonated drinks, onion, garlic, raw broccoli and cauliflower. These may cause bloating and discomfort on the plane. Eat light meals on the plane which are protein based. Protein foods include fish, chicken, lean meat, legumes, eggs and dairy. Fresh vegetables, salad and fruits are ideal on the flight, and will help avoid traveller’s constipation.
- Some evidence suggests that high protein meals, and a period of fasting before arrival followed by a high protein meal at the destination may reduce the symptoms of jetlag. Try to readjust your meals to the new time schedule of your destination.
2. Keep moving
Long haul flights carry an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), particularly in those with any blood clotting disorders or those who are obese or smoke. DVTs are blood clots that form in the deep veins of the legs. The most serious complication of a DVT is that part of the clot breaks off and travel to the lungs or other organs.
- Ensure you have plenty of water (avoid tea, coffee and alcohol)
- Do regular leg exercises and mobilise around the cabin throughout the flight. Regularly move your ankles, and massage your calves. Try and book an aisle seat to enable you to get up and move around. Don’t overdo it though, as you don’t want to sustain an injury during turbulence.
- Compression stockings help the blood flow through the veins and prevent blood pooling and clot formation in the vessels. Combined with light exercise, compression stockings may help to prevent DVT.
Wear loose comfortable clothing on the aeroplane and have your bags packed well before the day of departure. This enables you to relax more prior to flying and have a better quality sleep.
- To minimise the effects of jetlag, exposure to light can help adjust to the new time zone. Setting your watch for the destination time can help to mentally prepare you for where you are heading.
- Memory neck pillows and eye-masks will help give you a more comfortable and uninterrupted sleep.
- Avoid alcohol, and salty foods as these will contribute to feeling exhausted on arrival.
With a few simple tips, hopefully you are on your way to a healthy flight.
- Reynolds NC et al; Using the Argonne diet in jet lag prevention: deployment of troops across nine time zones. Mil Med. 2002; 167: 451-453